What it is: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, constantly warns people about the dangers of artificial intelligence.
Many people see artificial intelligence as nothing more than positive progress. That’s why you see so much research occurring in the self-driving car market but artificial intelligence has long been around in other forms as well. Every time you buy a product on Amazon, Amazon’s algorithms analyze your purchase and the purchases of people buying similar products. Then Amazon can offer you other products you might be interested in. This not only increases sales, but also makes Amazon’s algorithm smarter for the next user.
Banks and credit card companies have been using artificial intelligence for years to track down credit card fraud. Email accounts use spam filters to keep you from getting overwhelmed by junk email. Casinos use facial recognition algorithms to look for professional gambrels who aren’t allowed to gamble any more. Artificial intelligence has been infiltrating every aspect of our lives to the point where getting rid of it is not practical.
The huge problem with artificial intelligence is that when we allow programs to adapt and learn on their own, humans no longer fully understand how the program works any more. As artificial intelligence grows in sophistication, it’s likely to start controlling our lives in unintended ways, which likely won’t be for the betterment of the human race. Instead of deliberately attacking people like fictional artificial intelligence computers and robots might do, real artificial intelligence can simply allow humanity to wither away through sheer neglect. Either way means it’s bad result for people.
Think of the bias already inherent in police reporting. In poor neighborhoods, police report more crimes because they record those crimes. In rich neighborhoods, police are less likely to report crimes perpetrated by rich people. So the end result is that the data skewers towards more crime in poor areas and less crime in rich areas, which can convince a program to pour more resources into poor areas to combat crime through increasingly draconian measures.
Computers simply do what they’re programmed to do, but if they can start modifying their own behavior, nobody knows how they’ll behave any more. The more we give up control to artificial intelligence, the less control we’ll have over our own destiny. That doesn’t necessarily mean the extinction of the human race, but it does mean we’ll be dependent on something we no longer control or understand.
Artificial intelligence will only get better over time. Whether it can ever get smart enough to equal human intelligence is another question, but if it does, then it will likely surpass human intelligence as well. If that happens, what will people do with computers that are smarter than they are and that nobody knows how to control?
Questions like thees are the reason why Elon Musk is concerned about the future of artificial intelligence because without controls put in place ahead of time, or even thinking about safety, artificial intelligence will likely charge ahead without any safety measures put in place at all. Thinking safety last is a prescription for disaster.
To learn more about the dangers of artificial intelligence and why we should be more concerned than we are, read “Our Final Invention,” a book Elon Musk recommends everyone read. When you realize computer scientists are charging ahead building artificial intelligence without thinking about safety issues first, you realize that everyone’s safety will be in jeopardy in the long run.